Creating Your Own “Real”ity

Has your Instagram and Facebook newsfeed been packed with spring break pictures? Is every single guy and girl posting a new bathing suit picture every day? If you work hard for your body and are proud of it, by all means flaunt it, but if you are someone who is insecure do not feel the need to compare yourself. Many of these posts are edited, airbrushed, distorted, and promoting unhealthy habits. I think social media has made body image more of a concern because users tend to try to portray their best self or sometimes fake self to put on a perfect identity. As we discussed in class, we want to put our best foot forward and show our friends and family how great our life is, but sometimes it can be taken too far. We start believing that our lives can only be great if we show everyone and get satisfaction from all the likes.

Everyone creates a different identity online because no one is going to post the truth about themselves or the hard aspects of their life on their Instagram feed. I have noticed it has become worse among college students because it almost becomes a competition of who had a more fun vacation, or who went to the coolest bar/restaurant that weekend. People ask me how my spring break was and I say fun but it was bad weather for a few days, and they didn’t even realize that because no one ever posted on the bad days. The sunny and fun-filled days were the only ones documented. The worst aspect of this lifestyle is the emphasis of body image online. Healthy eating/living has grown so much popularity recently, which is great, but sometimes there are people who won’t go about it in a healthy way. They compare themselves to others and want to be able to show off their bikini body over spring break.

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The progression this semester that I noticed BC seniors taking to get in shape for spring break was shocking. It wasn’t just a habit of going to the gym more often, rather they were going to the gym for longer periods every day, eating less, and comparing themselves to others on social media who were already on spring break. Once on spring break some girls would take pictures every day to be able to post them when we got home. It became about the picture, and no longer about feeling great in your own skin. I would even hear girls say, “Ew, don’t post that I look so fat”… It was all about what was posted online, not what was healthy. Even when we got back home some girls completely stopped their diets and gym addiction, but I have noticed some who are stuck on this bender with the wrong mentality.

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I am not saying that social media is the sole driver of body image issues and confidence, but rather it gives everyone the platform for people to need the approval of peers about how they look. With every like they feel better and better about themselves. Sometimes these pictures are not even genuine but yet there is a satisfaction of getting likes on a picture that are of yourself but edited to look like your ideal self. It has aggressively progressed from covering pimples or brightening teeth, to photo shopping part of arms and legs out just to look skinnier. Celebrities are usually ones to blame but recently the most common people are peers and people that are seen on social media. It may not be Kim Kardashian anymore but that girl from high school who has 75K followers now on Instagram. The New York Times showed how Dove did a study that showed women are looking at woman more similar to them for beauty perception. Below are more statistics about Dove’s results of analyzing social media and its effect on women’s body image.

“That influence is not always a positive one. A 2014 Dove study found that women wrote 5 million disparaging tweets about beauty, most of which were about themselves. Much of the survey sample (78 percent) felt that the portrayal of women on social media is unrealistic. But 82 percent of women also said they believed social media can change prevailing standards of beauty.

As an article in TIME Magazine explains, social media is a “Toxic Mirror” and the “wellness industry online has launched an entire industry of fitness celebrities on social media.” Like I mentioned earlier there is has been a new wellness trend that is enforcing healthy eating, exercising, and healthy lifestyles in general. These accounts all post about their workouts, their food selection, and their body transformations. They can help motivate many people to adopt a new healthy lifestyle, but there are many people who adopt this mentality but not in the healthiest way. There are ways to pose to show a transformation picture, but the person may not even be working out or eating in a healthy way. Therefore, leading to the trend of showing off on Instagram and having it become fake and dishonest. As I scroll through my own newsfeeds I am happy for friends who work out and eat healthy and have a great body, however it is also sad to see some photos that are edited so much that their face is blurry and their “thigh gap” is edited into the photo. It is hard to keep a good body image when are you see on your newsfeed people skinnier, prettier, and “happier” than you. On the other, hand there are still plenty of accounts that promote beauty in many ways and encourage men and women to embrace who they are. Sometimes though social media becomes a platform for unintended peer pressure to be a better version of ourselves- and maybe not in the healthiest ways.

7 comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, especially as someone who witnessed countless beach photoshoots while on Spring Break in Punta Cana. Personally, I left my phone in my hotel room everyday. I agree that I’m happy to see those who work hard and want to post photos on vacation, but it does make me worried about those who had unhealthy habits when getting ready for their trip. There is definitely a pressure to post the “perfect” photo, and for some, that includes editing. Although we may be aware of the editing and the unhealthy habits, it’s hard not to compare oneself to the “perfect” photo when we see it so constantly. My explore page on Instagram this entire month has been jam-packed with bikini photos and fitness pages. Great post, and I think this could make for interesting class discussion!

  2. Nice post. This is a theme (beauty, not spring break) that has come up repeatedly across the years. My hope was that the “always on” nature of social media might bring people down to a more realistic perception of beauty, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. What kills me is when people know what their “good angle” is, and every picture you see of them on social media is from that exact same angle.

  3. Great post & super relevant to a lot of the conversations we’ve been having in class lately. I really liked what you said about people not knowing that there was bad weather in some of the major hot-spots over Spring Break, because it’s a completely real & tangible example of people tailoring their own narrative through social media. It’s interesting because we’ve also talked about this idea of seeing something on someone’s social media without talking to them about it in person and then having to cover up that you know some random detail about their life (like where their younger sister goes to school). We worry so much about the fact that social media often allows us to know “too much” about someone’s lives, that we’re always at risk of “stalking” them, yet in so many cases we can’t get any real information about someone’s life until we’re completely offline.

    It’s extremely concerning that people can do this even with their own bodies, and do it to an extent that is genuinely changing people’s perceptions of reality. Younger females are especially susceptible to this, and it’s awesome to see companies like Dove attempting to make their promotions more representative of more women, and I hope that if other companies follow suit, individuals will feel comfortable doing the same on their own social media.

  4. This is a great post! I completely agree with the stuff you were saying about spring break. The amount of pictures I saw on all forms of social media in the week following was pretty absurd. I personally didnt look at my phone once all week or take any pictures so I couldn’t believe how many people had dozens of pictures and instagrams. When I was scrolling through every picture of Punta Cana it made me think that so many people were there to prove to their friends that they had fun on spring break, rather than actually just enjoying spring break.

  5. Important to consider the consequences that social media could have on adolescent kids and their self esteem. Social media should be more about sharing experiences with others, instead of trying to prove who is better looking or has a better lifestyle. Also, social media should promote healthy habits such as going to the gym and eating healthy. The problem begins when people see it as a competition, and feel pressure from others who are posting pictures with a better ‘beach body’. At the end of the day, the point is to feel good with yourself, and not to measure your well being according to the other’s perception of you.

  6. I believe I’ve mentioned this study in a previous comment, but there’s a study on Facebook use and depression in teenagers. The statistics didn’t have a high enough correlation to make any conclusions, but the researchers claimed that when the user “stalked” someone on Facebook for the purpose of vigilance and comparison with their own lifestyle, he or she was much more likely to experience depressive symptoms. I think this hypothesis could be extended to apply to Instagram in that when you use it so that you can evaluate the quality of your or someone else’s life, it’s going to affect your self-esteem and self-reliance.

  7. Great, relatable post! Social Media is a place where we are supposed to share our lives to our friends and family, but it is interesting how little we actually share. I didn’t go anywhere sunny or fun for Spring Break, but it would be so funny how I would see instagrams about how amazing things were and then I’d talk to people and it wasn’t quite as advertised. It is crazy how we all feel this way or relate to this yet participate in this. I never post serious things about my life on social media – in fact people who look at my social media have no idea what’s really going on in my life, which is how I want it.

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